Book Review: Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible, Focused Management Team by Ed Muzio

The work of management is never straightforward. Managers are tasked with making the best decision possible given the information they have at hand, then to continually make readjustments as they go. It’s unreasonable for managers to think they can chart their course at any one point and then stick to it, because things change — and change quickly.

In Ed Muzio’s new book, Iterate: Run a Fast, Flexible, Focused Management Team (An Inc. Original, 2018), he describes a coordinated process of continuously making course corrections, which he has termed “iteration.” Managers who iterate use a structure for distilling the right information in order to make the most reasonable and useful decision they can make in that moment.

Muzio’s model employs an ever-evolving learning process whereby managers gather information from their teams, decide on the most logical step to take, and then take it, learn from it and repeat the process. He likens the process to the way trees take shape, or the way computers simulate weather.

Significantly, Iterate describes how to behave as a member of management in such a way that encourages and requires other management team members in the organization to work in concert and make resource adjustments to stay on target. Organizations create new information as they go along, and the better they are at iterating, the better they incorporate what they learn to make the best possible decisions.

With lively narrative, Muzio guides the reader step-by-step through his five key managing practices — such Output and Status Broadcasting, Linked Teams and Front Line Self-Sufficiency. He shows how the five practices work together to bring teams into alignment and keep output on track despite fluctuations in the environment. For example, Front Line Self-Sufficiency enables information to flow up from those doing the work to those managing it, while Linked Teams shares how management assimilates the information to fit into the big picture.

Following his explanation of each component that goes into the five key practices, Muzio offers an exercise that allows readers to assess the extent to which the behaviors are present or absent in their organization’s management practices. The goal is for readers to be positioned to help make iteration in their organizations systematic and automatic. Additionally, along with the book, readers receive prepaid access to a library of videos that delve more deeply into many of the topics.

The processes described in Iterate give managers techniques to avoid becoming stuck within rigid, inflexible strategies, or allow a lack of information from above and below to stifle decision-making at all levels. Instead, in the author’s words, the book provides  “…an instrumental tool to help senior leadership, frontline or middle management create a context in which goals make sense, targets align and people are held accountable to reasonable, appropriate expectations.”

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